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Album Review

One of the unintended benefits that jazz-funk keyboard great Robert Walter received when moving back to California after a sojourn in New Orleans, was jumpstarting his 20th Congress, which had been dormant for a decade. Get Thy Bearings showcases this quintet in a series of seven originals and two covers. The title track, written by Donovan, is completely revisioned. Its spacey guitars lay down a foundation for Cochema Gastelum's alto saxophone, which blasts the lyric in the first verse with Walter's B-3 taking the second. In the codas and bridge are swelling, dramatic arcs of that border on prog with their complex rhythms and harmonies. "Hunk" (featuring guest Karl Denson on saxophone), is a hard groover with a Meters-esque rhythm via a tight backbeat by Aaron Redfield, and Elgin Park doubling on guitar and playing fat, dirty-assed bass. "Foxhunting" is even meaner. Gastelum double tracks alto and tenor in popping lines and fills as Park's bassline bumps and throbs under a rim-shot shuffle, while Walter soars over the top, filling every nook and cranny with piano and B-3. This is backbone-slipping jazz- funk at its best. "Dog Party" is more on the R&B tip. It sounds like a response to Quincy Jones' Sanford and Son theme song or Fat Albert's. Walter's piano solo in the middle register boxes the groove and then breaks it open with a gospel-like zeal. Speaking of gospel, check out "Crux." Its nasty bassline could have come from a blaxploitation film soundtrack scored by Johnny Pate. Walter's swirling, knotty B-3 vamps duel with Redfield's popping cymbals and snare, while Gastelum's baritone solo testifies. This jam may reach for the heavens, but it comes from the heart of the gutter. The set closer is a cosmic jazz workout on Jimi Hendrix's "Up from the Skies." Walter directly references the melody line on his organ, accenting its origins in soul. Park's strident bass counters even as it accents; it begins to break things down and carry them outside. The frenetic yet circular rhythm provided by Chuck Prada's congas are the only thing holding the tune to the floor as group improvisation grips the center. While the melody returns briefly, this one moves off the rails and into the gone. Get Thy Bearings reveals that the inherent grittiness and innovative funk laid down by the 20th Street Congress is not only present after all these years, it's braver and hungrier than ever before.

Customer Reviews

Great Funk Album

I just got this new release and grooving out to it in the car is the only thing keeping me from losing my mind during my commute through the Holland Tunnel. Loved his work with Greyboy Allstars and he's killing it with the solo release. Definitely worth the 9 bucks

Music for the mind & behind!

Robert Walter delivers what he's known for and then some. This record is not a visit to the past grooves of the old funk masters, it is a record where Robert Walter finds his own voice and puts HIS stamp on the envelope of funk. This record will make you dance and think - isn't that the meaning of life? It is for me.

Awesome Album!!!

This is sooooo good from start to finish. Not a clunker in the bunch. Not that there ever is. This lineup is super tight and on top of their game. Go See Them Live!!!!.... if you get a chance.

Get Thy Bearings, Robert Walter's 20th Congress
View In iTunes
  • $8.91
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Jun 25, 2013

Customer Ratings